- The Washington Times - Friday, October 3, 2014

The first time Jake Peavy took the mound to pitch in a playoff game, he was 24 years old, surrounded by more than 52,000 roaring, red-clad Cardinals fans in St. Louis.

The second batter he faced in Game 1 of that 2005 National League Division Series was Jim Edmonds, who promptly homered to left-center. The last batter he faced that afternoon was Reggie Sanders, who blasted a grand slam to left that put Peavy’s San Diego Padres in an 8-0 hole on the way to what would be a Cardinals series sweep.

The following year, in Game 1 of the NLDS, Peavy got drilled by the Cardinals again. It would be seven more years before he got an opportunity to pitch a game that mattered in October, getting starts in all three playoff rounds last season as he helped the Boston Red Sox win it all.

But it wasn’t until Friday night that Peavy actually had a playoff win to call his own.

Now a well-traveled veteran at age 33, Peavy helped the San Francisco Giants extend their postseason winning streak to nine in a row by smothering the Washington Nationals through the first 5 2/3 innings of an eventual 3-2 victory. Though the Nationals made things interesting late with a pair of home runs off reliever Hunter Strickland in the seventh, Peavy’s work and the offensive backing he got ultimately held up.

“He’s one of the biggest competitors I’ve ever seen,” said Strickland, who was appearing in his 10th career big-league game. “It’s a great thing to get him that win.”

Entering Friday’s game, Peavy was 0-3 with a 9.27 ERA in his five postseason starts, never making it out of the sixth inning. That last part held true in Game 1 at Nationals Park, but that was more a function of the effort Peavy put into the 104 pitches it took to get to that point.

“He wasn’t giving in and was just making really, really tough pitches the whole game,” said Giants catcher Buster Posey.

Several times in the early innings, he patiently jousted with Nationals batters as they worked counts, and most of the time the at-bat ended in his favor. Washington hit only four balls out of the infield in the first five innings, and the home team’s only hit in that span was an infield single by Bryce Harper leading off the fifth.

“He was hitting his spots,” said Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond. “He was using all his pitches effectively, changing speeds. He had a good cutter going that he kind of went to when he got in trouble. He was ahead, and when he was ahead, he was able to do what he wanted to do.”

Even after pinch-hitter Nate Schierholtz led off the sixth with a double, Peavy retired the top two men in the Nationals’ batting order before walking Jayson Werth. That was when Giants manager Bruce Bochy came to get him, and after Javier Lopez walked Adam LaRoche to load the bases, Strickland fanned Desmond on a 100 mph fastball to preserve Peavy’s clean slate.

Afterward, Peavy spoke of the difficulty in navigating Washington’s lineup but quickly refocused the lens on the Giants team he joined a little more than two months ago after being traded by the floundering Red Sox.

“You can’t take a batter off. I think that’s the attitude,” Peavy said. “That’s what makes this team as special as we are. We understand that we may not be the favorites, but we play every pitch on every side of the ball. … At the end of the day against teams like this, when you talk about facing the best, you can’t take a pitch off. It may cost you the game. Fortunately, we were able to execute for the most part today.”

A former 15th-round pick of the Padres out of high school in Mobile, Alabama, Peavy has experienced the expected highs and lows in a 13-year big-league career, and the early part of this season was about as close to the bottom as the consistent right-hander has dwelled. When he finally escaped Boston in late July, he was sitting at 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA.

But in 13 starts since joining the Giants, including Friday’s, he has allowed a mere 19 earned runs in 84 1/3 innings. He clearly has found a home with this postseason-hardened bunch directed by the same manager, Bochy, who was in charge in San Diego when Peavy broke through to the majors as a 21-year-old.

There’s a comfort level here for the veteran, and that was clear Friday night as he went through his first playoff game with the latest team to embrace him.

“I love people who do it their way,” Peavy said. “It’s something I’ve taken pride in over the years, I’ve tried to do it. I haven’t tried to be anybody else. I tried to be true to myself and my family and do it my way. It’s a good reminder that you don’t have to be like everybody else to be right.”

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